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Americans get extra week to sign up for Obamacare as website improves

A busy screen is shown on the laptop of a Certified Application Counselor as he attempted to enroll an interested person for Affordable Care
A busy screen is shown on the laptop of a Certified Application Counselor as he attempted to enroll an interested person for Affordable Care

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans hoping to sign up for health insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law will have an additional eight days to do so for coverage to begin January 1, 2014, officials said on Friday.

The decision to move the deadline to December 23 from December 15 is an acknowledgement that the online portal for enrollment, HealthCare.gov, has been plagued with problems since it opened on October 1.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said they had no plans to extend the ultimate deadline of March 31, 2014, the date when people without insurance must enroll in a plan or face a tax penalty.

That decision reflects, in part, optimism that the website will continue to improve: the site will soon be able to handle 50,000 simultaneous users, said Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration's HealthCare.gov adviser, and 800,000 people per day, largely because of the more than 300 software and other fixes that technology teams have made to the site over the last seven weeks.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley)

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